Home » Locomotives » Featured Loco: BR Class 59

Featured Loco: BR Class 59

The British mainline locomotive fleet today consists of large numbers of foreign-built locos. Back in the early 1980s this would have seemed very unlikely, but in 1986 the first of the US-built BR Class 59 locomotives arrived.

59001 by Phil Scott

59001 by Phil Scott


Foster Yeoman operated stone trains from Merehead Quarry and experienced problems with the BR Class 56 locomotives supplied as motive power.

Foster Yeoman had already operated a General MotorsElectro-Motive Division (EMD) shunter, of type EMD SW1001, since 1980. They ordered four BR Class 59 locos based on the EMD SD40-2, which were constructed in 1985 and they arrived in the UK in 1986. A fifth loco was delivered in 1989.

Amey Roadstone Construction (ARC) ordered four more Class 59 locos in 1990. National Power (NP) ordered a pilot locomotive in 1994, followed by another five more locomotives. The NP locos were taken over by EWS in 1998.

Locomotive availability was high and the class set European haulage records. In 1997 EWS ordered the similar BR Class 66 locomotives, of which there are now over 650 in service in both the UK and mainland Europe. The latter class were fitted with different engines to the Class 59, had a higher top speed, but a lower tractive effort.

59003 moved to Germany in 1997 and became 259003. Whilst in Germany the locomotive set a haulage record. Its return to the UK in 2014 was initially announced on Facebook.

Technical Details

The locos were Type 5, fitted with a General Motors 645E3C 3 300 hp diesel engine and weighed 126 tonnes. They had a maximum tractive effort of 122 000 lb, with a top speed of 60mph. There were minor technical differences between the three subclasses.

Subclasses and Numbering

Class 59/0

The first five Foster Yeoman locos were classified 59/0 and numbered 59001-59005.

Class 59/1

The ARC locomotives carried the numbers 59101-59104.

Class 59/2

Numbers 59201-59206 were applied to the National Power locos.

BR Class 59 Internet Resources